Marko admits ‘relief’ after Hungary challenge

Mon, 24 July 2023, 10:00

Jul.24 (GMM) Any hopes that Red Bull may be at risk of being caught by its rivals disappeared with Max Verstappen’s win by a huge 33 seconds on Sunday.

The only real glitch for the Dutchman, who just a day earlier had complained about “terrible” car handling as he missed pole to Lewis Hamilton, was when Lando Norris broke his ceramic trophy on the podium.

“We are in the group of Formula 2 cars,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff joked afterwards. “Red Bull is alone in Formula 1.”

Arguably now at the top of the chasing teams is McLaren, although Wolff thinks his cars are still a match for the improved ‘B’ car that in Norris’ hands raced to a second-consecutive second place in Hungary.

“The result doesn’t show it, but our pace against everyone else is ok. But it’s pointless to look to who is second best when the fastest one is so far away.”

Wolff thinks Red Bull’s gap is still “gigantic”, but unlike Hamilton he does not think new rules need to be introduced to prevent similar dominance next year.

“It is the way it is,” said the Austrian. “As long as they stay within the rules, they’ve simply done the best job.”

There are, however, rumblings about another potential budget cap breach for Red Bull, which last year resulted in a fine and wind tunnel restrictions for the energy drink owned team.

Hamilton said earlier at the Hungaroring that Red Bull’s penalty was effectively a “slap on the wrist”.

“It’s easy to throw shade when you’re not performing,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner hit back. “I’m just incredibly proud of the job our teams are doing with the constraints and the handicap we have.”

But as Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin struggle to make headway into Red Bull’s lead, Wolff at least had to acknowledge the “one second” leap McLaren has made with its ‘B’ car.

“It’s actually less than that,” McLaren boss Andrea Stella smiled.

Ferrari, on the other hand, has struggled to make gains in 2023, with Carlos Sainz left shaking his head about arguably favourable strategy treatment for his teammate Charles Leclerc as they struggled to seventh and eighth.

“If it were for victories, I would be angrier,” the Spaniard said. “But when it’s for seventh or eighth, I’m not that worried.

“Because I insist that our priority must be to understand why in the last ten laps with hard tyres the Mercedes was putting more than a second per lap on us.

“It’s been a tough year,” Sainz added. “Above all the car has some fundamental weaknesses that we see now on almost all the circuits.”

Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur explains: “Everyone is improving, but with the budget cap, the steps are much smaller so it’s difficult for you to catch up.”

So for Red Bull and Verstappen, whose victory and fastest lap on Sunday extends his lead over his own teammate Sergio Perez to 110 points, reinstating their dominance after the qualifying defeat is a relief.

“We had concerns about Hungary and Singapore,” admitted Red Bull official Dr Helmut Marko told Servus TV. “According to the calculations, they are the most difficult tracks for us.

“So such a confident victory is a relief. It was also the 250th podium for us or something like that. With each victory, we reach heights that we could not have even dreamed of.”

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